Autofocus Time Management System

This looks like it might well be worth a try.  Upsides – simplicity, low cost. Potential downsides – not going to work well to develop ‘To Do’ lists for specific environments.

Video is about 9 minutes and needs sound.

Or you can just check out the website – with some really simple getting started instructions here.

Drucker on Time As a Resource

Time Management

“Mike, everything you are teaching us makes so much sense.  We can see how it could work.  BUT WE DO NOT HAVE THE TIME TO PUT IT INTO PRACTICE.  WE ARE JUST TOO BUSY FIGHTING FIRES.”

This is a line that I hear just about every time I train!  There is without doubt an issue of time management going on here – that the Drucker quote below might shed some light on.  However I think that what they really believe, perhaps sub-consciously, is,

“Mike, we are in a routine here.  We like to moan about it – but we don’t want to (or feel that we can’t) change it.  It is convenient to us to blame our performance on others (senior management, funders, customers, governments) because that means that I NEVER have to become fully responsible.”

So on to the Drucker quote….

“Time is also a unique resource. Of the other major resources, money is actually quite plentiful. We long ago should have learned that it is the demand for capital, rather than the supply thereof, which sets the limit to economic growth and activity. People — the third limiting resources — one can hire, though one can rarely hire enough good people. But one cannot rent, hire, buy, or otherwise obtain more time.

The supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up. There is no price for it and no marginal utility curve for it. Moreover, time is totally perishable and cannot be stored. Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back. Time is, therefore always in exceedingly short supply.

Time is totally irreplaceable. Within limits we can substitute one resource for another, copper for aluminum, for instance. We can substitute capital for human labor. We can use more knowledge or more brawn. But there is no substitute for time.

Everything requires time. It is the only truly universal condition. All work takes place in time and uses up time. Yet most people take for granted this unique irreplaceable, and necessary resource. Nothing else, perhaps distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.

Man is ill-equipped to manage his time.”

Peter Drucker – The Effective Executive

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Barriers to Coaching

Prem Rao writes a great blog and one of his recent posts identifies 7 barriers that prevent managers from coaching their team members as much as they ought.

Now I spend a lot of my time teaching managers how to coach and while I agree with all of Prem’s 7 I would have to add a few more barriers that I regularly encounter!

One is the perception that coaching takes a along time and is expensive.  While coaching can take several weeks to really improve performance it is usually used to address a problem or an opportunity that has existed for months!  Taking 6 -9 weeks to make real progress on an issue that is important but not urgent has to be a great use of any manager’s time.

But this brings us to another barrier to coaching.  Coaching is a classic Quadrant 2 activity in Covey terms – it is itself an important but seldom urgent part of the work of the manager – After all you can always postpone coaching for another day without the wheels falling off.  Secondly the issues that require coaching tend to be Quadrant 2 in nature – they are important but seldom urgent.  So we are caught in a double whammy – not only can we afford to postpone coaching we can also postpone addressing the issue that coaching would be perfect to address.

Another barrier is the perception that it will take up a lot of the managers time if they start to coach – in fact it will nearly always save time – especially if used in partnership with delegation.

Then there is the association of coaching with under-performance.  The perception that coaching is something that is done (certainly at middle and lower levels in the organisation) as a last resort effort to address under performance.  This makes it awkward for managers to broach the subject of coaching with high performers.

Finally I think that many managers fight shy of coaching because they are insufficiently secure in their own technical competence and believe that their own short-comings might be exposed if they start to coach.

The solution?

Set an expectation that every manager will coach every member of the team every week.  Train managers how to coach. Hold them accountable for this expectation and reward those that deliver! 

Not only will you see progress in terms of performance and value creation, you will also start to develop a culture where you really do ‘invest in your people’.

Conscripts, mercenaries, and volunteers

Willing volunteers outperform conscripts and mercenaries every time. They are more innovative and creative as well more diligent and disciplined.

Volunteers have bought into a mission and a purpose rather then been bought into it.

Much of the private sector is struggling with how to turn salaried staff from conscripts and mercenaries into volunteers. Finding ways to engage them in the work of the organisation. To provide them with fulfilling and rewarding work.

Much of the public and third sector seems to be taking almost exactly the opposite path. It finds ways to turn passionate and caring volunteers (people who have bought into the mission) into conscripts and mercenaries. This is achieved by:

  • making them servants of the system rather than servants of their customers
  • imposing performance management systems that often fail to recognise quality service delivery
  • entering into inflexible and output related contracts for service delivery that shrink opportunities for innovation and improvement
  • managing them as if they are units of production rather than as caring and compassionate people full of insights into how to improve performance.

It is a strange paradox that many private sector clients are making genuine efforts at developing employee engagement in pursuit of profits while so many third sector and public sector organisations are developing processes and systems that alienate employees and volunteers in pursuit of efficiency.

Using the Right and Left Brain at Work

Most organisations are designed to maximise the contribution of employees left brains to the pursuit of success. Targets are set, plans are laid, logic is deployed, progress is measured and accountability is maintained. Such ‘left brain’ activities fit nicely the milieu of meetings, time pressures, deadlines and procedures that form the social system of most organisations.

However most of us choose an employer based on ‘right brain’ criteria in pursuit of ‘right brain’ goals.

  • Will the work be fulfilling?
  • Will I part of a great team?
  • Will my efforts help to make the world a better place?
  • Will the job give me a lifestyle that works for me?

It is the ‘right brain’ that is the seat of creativity, imagination, innovation and passion. Unless we build a social system that feeds, stimulates and enables right brain contributions we should continue to expect as many as 1 in 4 of our employees to be looking to leave in the next 12 months, while 2 of the remaining three will be in survival (‘count the years, months and days until I retire’) mode.

Take a quick audit of your social system (meetings, processes and procedures) at work. How many opportunities in the average week are there for meaningful ‘right brain’ conversations that are likely to lead to the successful pursuit of right brain goals?

Of course it is easy for our left brains to rationalise away this paucity of ‘right brain’ opportunity in the name of efficiency and the pursuit of effectiveness. To overcome this tendency just remind your left brain of the critical importance of enabling good people to do great work, and of the need for frequent and regular innovation and renewal, if your organisation is to survive never mind thrive in the next few years.

You may find that it gives your right brain just enough time and space to do some big picture thinking.

Goals, Priorities and Resources; where does it all go wrong?

Spending time developing and clarifying goals is rarely time wasted. Although some of us spend time clarifying our work goals few of us spend time developing goals for other important aspects of our lives – family, community and self. This is one of the reasons why we find work-life balance so hard to achieve. Goals that have been set in our professional lives are not balanced by goals in other areas. The goals that we have set start to demand creativity and resources and before we know it…

Sometimes we set goals that do not provide clear priorities. Or they provide us with so many priorities that we may as well have no priorities at all. Priorities are immediate next steps that will move us closer to our goals. Good priorities are ones that we cannot fail to address. They are so simple and appealing that they cry out for us to get on with them.

But often we forget to allocate time and other resources to our priorities. Without resources to go with them our priorities are worthless. Without doubt time is the most precious resource that we can commit to a priority. I often find myself working with senior managers to clarify goals and priorities (no more than three or four at a time) and then schedule time in busy diaries to spend on them.

By scheduling two 90 minute blocks of time every week to work on priorities many managers ‘magically’ start to make tangible progress towards goals that had previously frustrated them.

The Fine Art of Progress

I get fired up about management because it the best tool for helping both organisations and the people that work in them to make progress.

Outstanding managers are able to facilitate the progress of both the individual and the organisation and to connect these in a way that results in win/wins for both.

They do this by:

  • regularly creating time and space to allow people to understand what progress looks and feels like right now – for them and for the organisation
  • building a consensus around the ‘direction(s) in which progress lies’
  • enabling people to make things happen in pursuit of progress – they promote a ‘bias for action’
  • by building the skills and confidence of people to act creatively and pro-actively in pursuit of progress within the mission, vision and values of the organisation.

One of the greatest opportunities for performance improvement is to take more time to explore these questions about progress in some depth and then to link them to immediate next steps – practical things that individuals and groups can do to close the gap between where we are now and where we want to be.  And this is what Brilliant 121s are all about.

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